The Song of the Caged Bird
A Heuristic Research Study into the Mothered Experience of a Black British Female
My body of work is part of an arts-based heuristic research that has been focused on how the understanding of motherhood and being mothered has shaped the experience of a Black British female. Rather than focusing on the literal mother and daughter relationship, the research looks at the complexities within the attachments between the Motherland/Mother country and a daughter of the diaspora. The artwork created showcases the creative process that informed wonderings around this theme, with the motif of a hummingbird, the national bird of Jamaica, being a predominant symbol throughout. Repetition through pattern, print and reproducing origami birds influenced thoughts surrounding intergenerational attachments and the imprints of ideas around motherhood and identity that have been passed down and repeated. Using a Black Feminist theory lens, underpinned by psychoanalytic theory, the journey towards the self made up of both Caribbean and British mothering experiences is explored.
Adinkra symbol patterns
Media: Hand-drawn patterns converted to digital
Lino and acetate cut out prints, displayed as a triptych
Media: acrylic paint
Size: each print 60cm x 60cm
Adinkra are symbols that represent concepts or aphorisms, originating in West Africa and used in fabrics, logos and pottery. These patterns were drawn originally by hand using the symbols that I found to be fitting for my theme, such as unity, security, chains, links, etc. My thoughts behind creating these patterns came from looking at mandalas, circles being a whole and representing the mother, and the repetitive nature of them being both self soothing as well as reflecting the repetition within other aspects of my work.
The colours used were chosen specifically to highlight my heritage and current living: being of Jamaican heritage (using the colours of the Jamaican flag), yet living in Britain (using the colours of the Union Jack). Even though these 2 palettes are the ones I predominantly used throughout my work, the base patterns in black and white also highlight this duality of my upbringing: mothering within a Black family whilst being mothered in a White Western world society.
These patterns went on to form the basis of quite a few of my creations throughout the year.
Let me hold you
Media: origami paper, printed paper, metal wire
The hummingbird, the national bird of Jamaica, became an ongoing symbol throughout my work. As I glued these origami birds together, then transformed into containers, and this fed into the idea of multiple birds representing community, and the community representing Mother, and the mother being a holding space for self. These then developed into literal holding spaces for the self, and inverted containers were created, which became domes, to create an immersive experience.
Oh to be set free
Media: printed paper, lollipop sticks
Size: box 75cm x 75cm x 75cm approx
Mobile 70cm x 70cm, adjustable height
Confinement and restriction.
Freedom as they fly away.
Feeling in limbo and suspended somewhere between two cultures.
Positioned in the air and giving the appearance of flying away, the freedom of these birds was to act as a counteract to the enclosed feeling of the bird domes. However, as much as I envision them to be flying and free, they too are in fact suspended in space; stuck.
Abigail was a BA Fine Art graduate before undertaking MA Art Therapy. Whilst studying her undergrad, she had the opportunity to complete a years’ worth of counselling skills and here found herself drawn to working within a helping relationship and wanted to combine her love of art with the ability to help others.
Being a Black Brit, one of her reasons for entering the world of therapy was to see how it can be integrated and used alongside one’s culture. The thought of discussing one’s thoughts and emotions with someone outside of your family (or in some cases even within the family) is often a stigma within the Caribbean community. Through skills, knowledge and insight that this course has brought, she hopes to possibly look more into how that stigma can be broken down.
As well as having an interest in working with ethnic minority groups, Abigail enjoys working with children and young people and has done so within both her placement settings during her time on the course. Previously, she has also worked in arts sessions with adults with various learning disabilities.
Copyright © 2020 Abigail Hazel